Monday, August 5, 2019

Hazel Prior Interview - Ellie and the Harpmaker

Photo Credit: Martin Dearmun

HAZEL PRIOR is a harpist based in Exmoor, England. Originally from Oxford, she fell in love with the harp as a student and now performs regularly. She’s had short stories published in literary magazines and has won numerous writing competitions in the UK. Ellie and the Harpmaker is her first novel and she is working on her second.


When/how did you realize you had a creative dream or calling to fulfill?
I always had a vague sense that I should be doing something creative but I didn’t quite understand how much effort was needed. The change came after a long-term and very painful illness. After I’d finally been fixed by surgery I realised that life was too precious to waste so I started getting much more pushy about it....

Tell us your most rewarding experience since being published.
It was really wonderful when I stumbled across the very first review of my book on the Internet and the reader had absolutely loved ELLIE AND THE HARPMAKER. So heart-warming! Another great moment was surprising people at the UK book launch with my song (entitled ‘Books are Cool!’) accompanied on the harp and saxophone.

Please tell us about ELLIE AND THE HARPMAKER!
It’s a story about two contrasting characters and what happens when they meet. Dan lives in isolation in his barn on the moors. He obsessively makes sandwiches, coffee and harps, and he has a habit of counting everything. Ellie is respectable, married, approaching forty and beginning to realise she could do much more with her life. She decides to follow a dream which leads her to the discovery of a long-hidden secret… and a series of unexpected dramas.

What was the most surprising thing you learned in creating your characters, Ellie and Dan?
I was surprised at Dan, who just sort of appeared in my consciousness ready-made. All his little foibles were right there from the beginning and I have no idea where they came from. Ellie took me much more work to develop into a real and rounded character. She’s very self-effacing at the start of the novel, but she gradually gathers confidence and finally gains the courage of her convictions at the end. I learned that you can’t always dictate the way your characters behave. They will insist on doing their own thing in their own way, and you just have to let them!


  • 1. It’s set on Exmoor, which is where I live – a wild and beautiful area in south-west England. 
  • 2. It’s inspired by the many people who come up to me after performances and declare “I’ve always wanted to play the harp!” 
  • 3. Music and nature are almost like extra characters in the story. 
  • 4. Most of the plot came to me during a single walk in the woods. 
  • 5. I wrote the first draft sitting in a field with my cat sitting beside me. 
  • 6. It’s written from two different perspectives. 
  • 7. Everyone seems to fall in love with the main character, the harpmaker, Dan Hollis. 
  • 8. The cover features another popular character from the book: a pheasant named Phineas.
  • 9. Ellie and the Harpmaker took two years to write and another two years to get published. 
  • 10. The book includes: 86 plums, 69 sandwiches, 27 birch trees, a 17-step staircase and a pair of cherry-coloured socks.
If you could introduce one of your characters to any character from another book, who would it be and why?
I’d love to put Dan Hollis (the harpmaker) together with Eleanor Oliphant and see what sort of conversation they’d have. And then ask them later what they thought of each other. I have a feeling the results would be entertaining.

Any new and exciting things that you would like to share?
To celebrate the publication of ELLIE AND THE HARPMAKER I am buying myself a new harp!

Do you play a musical instrument?
Yes. The harp!

If you could be born into history as any famous person who would it be and why?
Leonardo Da Vinci because he lived in Italy at a very exciting time and he was creative in so many ways – artistic, scientific and a completely original thinker. I’d love to get inside his head. There would be ideas pinging about everywhere.

What are you most passionate about today?
Conservation issues. I’m really worried that we are destroying our own planet and we desperately need to change our ways before it’s too late.

In the rolling hills of beautiful Exmoor, there’s a barn. And in that barn, you’ll find Dan. He’s a maker of exquisite harps - but not a great maker of conversation. He’s content in his own company, quietly working and away from social situations that he doesn’t always get right.

But one day, a cherry-socked woman stumbles across his barn and the conversation flows a little more easily than usual. She says her name’s Ellie, a housewife, alone, out on her daily walk and, though she doesn’t say this, she looks sad. He wants to make her feel better, so he gives her one of his harps, made of cherry wood.

And before they know it, this simple act of kindness puts them on the path to friendship, big secrets, pet pheasants and, most importantly, true love.


“How I loved this book! An uncommonly lovely story told with elegance, insight, and so much heart. Hazel Prior’s brilliant debut will delight.” —Kristan Higgins, New York Times bestselling author of Good Luck With That

"A beautiful love song of a story, wonderfully told with a warm heart and much hope. Hazel Prior’s writing is a lyrical delight.” —Phaedra Patrick, international bestselling author of The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper

“Prior’s debut resonates with a clear voice, depicting love evolving from a friendship based upon genuine acts of kindness….Ellie and Dan, both delightful, down-to-earth characters, selflessly put each other’s needs ahead of their own, and fans of fast-paced romantic stories will enjoy watching them discover true happiness together." —Publishers Weekly

"A lyrical, almost fairytale-like novel, as resonant and mysterious as a Celtic harp. The novel shines with all the grace and harmony of a handmade instrument, and shows us what can happen when a woman yearning for meaning meets a solitary man dedicated to his craft...and they both decide to open their hearts to possibility." —Juliet Blackwell, New York Times bestselling author of The Lost Carousel of Provence

“A melodious and heartwarming debut about love, friendship, and a secret that could change everything. This one is special.” —Emily Liebert, USA Today bestselling author of Some Women and Pretty Revenge

You can purchase Ellie and the Harpmaker at the following Retailers:

And now, The Giveaways.
Thank you ELLIE AND THE HARPMAKER for making this giveaway possible.
Winner will receive a Copy of Ellie and the Harpmaker by Hazel Prior.


  1. "Do you play a musical instrument?" No. I took piano lessons and flute lessons.

  2. No I do not play I have played a little piano

  3. No, but I have always wanted to.

  4. No, I do not, although my family is very musically talented.